Home Alone (1990) is the second best Christmas movie to feature characters walking barefoot on broken glass. It launched child star Macaulay Culkin to superstardom and marked screenwriter John Hughes’ departure from critically acclaimed teen dramedy to zany infantile slapstick. Until 2009 it was the highest grossing big screen comedy of all time. When the paint-by-numbers sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) also booby trapped its way to box office gold despite the fact that it co-starred Rob Schneider, plans were made to fast-track a third installment in the child abandonment franchise. But the pre-teenage Culkin said “no”, realizing something adult film producers were too ignorant (or greedy) to acknowledge- that the series had run its course. Like the bumbling burglars at the end of those movies, it was time to put the franchise away for good. But much like those burglars, Hollywood couldn’t resist one last score, or in the case of the Home Alone, two more scores.
Which brings us to Home Alone 4 AKA Home Alone: Taking Back the House AKA the most egregious holiday film since Santa Baby (which gets such a low rating because Santa is not in fact a baby). Five years after the franchise had seemingly exhausted all vestiges of creativity and plausibility with the in-name-only sequel Home Alone 3 (1997), a film that included more fart sound effects in non-fart moments than any film I’ve ever seen, they decided to give the series one more chance, this time as a TV movie from the director of K-9 (1989) and Beethoven’s 2nd (1993). And believe me, this movie is one for the dogs. The only conceivable reason for filming Home Alone 4 is to make a liar of everyone who said Home Alone 3 was the worst in the series.
It becomes painfully obvious within the first ten seconds of this film that the viewer is in for a supremely sub par experience: the familiar Home Alone logo, now rendered as shoddy CGI, whizzes past the screen in what looks like the opening titles for a cheaply produced PlayStation 1 game. This is accompanied by a generic sounding score by Teddy Castellucci. The producers could no longer afford John Williams (whose “Somewhere in My Memory” from the first film is a moving musical masterpiece) so they had to settle for the guy who did the music for White Chicks (2004), Wild Hogs (2007) and Rob Schneider’s filmography.
Every time this movie plays, an angel slits its wrists.
Kevin McCallister, now played by Michael Weinberg, returns to the series, having not aged a day in ten years. In fact he’s a full year younger. Kevin himself even states that he’s 9 years old, while in Home Alone 2 he’s 10. And this movie can’t be a so-called “interquel” between Home Alone 1 and 2 because it’s explicitly set in the early 2000s. Maybe if this was a remake, reboot, or re-imagining I could accept that kind of blatant disregard for continuity, but the events of the first two movies are acknowledged on multiple occasions. It’s as if no one involved in the production had ever seen Home Alone, let alone heard of it.
Kevin’s parents are now divorced and his dad is living with his wealthy girlfriend Natalie. After being bullied by his siblings in one of the most unconvincing bullying montages I’ve ever seen, Kevin decides to pack up and move in with his dad and his new mistress. Really, Kev, you run away from home because your brother tosses your laundry around? This is where the movie shifts gears from low-rent Home Alone clone to low-rent Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994) clone. Natalie lives in a “smart house” that does “whatever you tell it to”. Translation: If you wanna open a door, you gotta speak into a remote controlled device and say, “door open.” If you wanna close said door, you gotta say “door close.” If you wanna perform any basic household operation that one could normally perform all by oneself without thinking, you need the remote.
This is unquestionably the most frustratingly flawed home system I’ve ever seen in my life. You can’t go anywhere in the house without a remote. Why does it have to be voice activated-only? Why no buttons? If you say, “door open”, how would it know which door to open? If you’re in a locked room in this vast house without a remote, you’re probably going to die of starvation. Yet everyone in this doomed movie views this voice-activated hell house as the best thing they’ve ever seen. Who in their right mind would choose to live like that?! I’m thinking the screenwriters originally wanted Natalie to live in a haunted house, but the producers demanded something more “plausible”. And cheaper.
By the end of the movie, the remote becomes so powerful it renders Kevin a Zack Morris-esque demi-god.
Natalie seems thrilled to have Kevin around. After all, the Royal Family – not of England but from a country where everybody speaks with an upper class English accent – is staying over for Christmas, and with Kevin around there’ll be someone around to play with the Crown Prince —
Wait, what the fudge?? The Royal Family is… what? I take back what I said about Home Alone 3 exhausting all vestiges of creativity and plausibility from the franchise.
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